We have previously written about a number of proposed reforms to Maryland's criminal justice system, including some that proposed decriminalization of Maryland's marijuana laws. However, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has vetoed a number of these proposals, leaving their future viability in question.
Governor Vetoes Marijuana Laws
One proposal we have written about previously involved the decriminalization of certain marijuana crimes. Specifically, the legislature passed a bill making possession of drug paraphernalia a noncriminal infraction and included a provision making smoking marijuana in public noncriminal as well. In 2014, Maryland passed a law decriminalizing the possession of smaller amounts of marijuana. That law remains in effect. Thus, legislators realized that the laws made no sense because someone could commit a criminal infraction by owning paraphernalia that was being used for a noncriminal amount of marijuana. They sought to make possession of the paraphernalia noncriminal as well, to harmonize the laws.
However, the governor has now vetoed that bill, citing concerns about whether smoking in a vehicle would be a criminal infraction or not. Because that was unclear, law enforcement would be uncertain whether they could make a traffic stop when observing someone smoking while driving, according to Hogan.
Proponents of the measure say that's just not true, and an officer observing someone smoking in their car could still perform a traffic stop. They further argue that if officers can stop spending time on minor drug offenses or tracking down ownership of minor drug paraphernalia, they can spend time on more significant matters and cases that concern immediate public safety.
Voting Rights Also Vetoed
Another bill recently vetoed involved the restoration of voting rights for felons. Although it may not seem like a good idea on the surface, the bill was intended to apply to the nearly 40,000 individuals on probation who are functioning and productive members of society. The bill was also a response to the racial conflicts that have been arising in Maryland criminal courts and in the streets.
The governor vetoed that measure, citing his opinion that such people are still serving a debt to society. Proponents of the bill have said that many of these people needed to be reassimilated into society and provided a say in how their communities are run. Doing so could avoid the public confrontations Baltimore was faced with this year.
Maryland does currently allow ex-convicts to vote, once their sentences are complete.
In many cases, legislators say they have enough votes to override the veto, so some of these measures may not be dead yet.
Defending your rights requires understanding all the current laws. The criminal defense attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience at all stages of the criminal defense process. If you or someone you know was arrested in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.